Indulging your sweet tooth has never been easier. Almost every store you visit sells candy bars, soft drinks, and baked goods. And these foods often contain the same ingredient — high fructose corn syrup.

Sugar consumption has skyrocketed over the last century due to added sugars. We now have a massive amount of processed foods at our fingertips. But many people aren’t aware of the health risks associated with high fructose corn syrup.

Today, we’ll discuss what high fructose corn syrup is and how it differs from regular sugar. We’ll highlight foods that contain this product. And we’ll explore how high fructose corn syrup affects your gut health. This is a topic I recently covered on my Gut Check Project podcast. If you’d like to hear more, you can check out the podcast episode here.

What Is High Fructose Corn Syrup?

High fructose corn syrup is a sugar substitute. It’s derived from corn starch and is chemically altered to contain high amounts of fructose. Fructose is a fruit sugar that is naturally found in many fruits and vegetables, including:

  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Sweet potatoes

Adding high amounts of fructose to corn syrup produces a sweeter alternative to sugar. It also extends the shelf life of many foods and beverages.

The federal government created high fructose corn syrup in the 1960s when they discovered it was cheaper than buying sugar overseas. And now it’s found almost everywhere.

High Fructose Corn Syrup vs. Sugar

Sugar is commonly known as table sugar or cane sugar. Sucrose is the chemical makeup of sugar, which contains both glucose and fructose molecules.

High fructose corn syrup also contains glucose and fructose molecules. But the amount of fructose in high fructose corn syrup is higher than that of sugar. High fructose corn syrup typically includes either 42 or 55 percent fructose.

Fructose is 2-times as sweet as glucose, which can cause you to crave foods with high fructose corn syrup. The American Heart Association recommends a daily sugar intake of no more than 36g for men and 25g for women. But the average American consumes more than three times that amount.

Foods With High Fructose Corn Syrup

Many processed foods contain high fructose corn syrup to add sweetness and prolong shelf life. These foods are often high in calories and contain large amounts of sugar and fat. Some foods with high fructose corn syrup include:

  • Cereal
  • Granola bars
  • Cookies
  • Bread
  • Soda
  • Juice
  • Energy drinks
  • Coffee creamers
  • Candy
  • Canned fruit
  • Peanut butter

Food companies often disguise high fructose corn syrup under alternative names such as corn sugar, fructose syrup, or maltodextrin.

Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Bad for You?

The verdict is in on high fructose corn syrup — and it’s not good. Increased sugar consumption can lead to detrimental health effects. High fructose corn syrup can cause the following conditions:

  • Obesity
  • Insulin resistance
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure

Keep reading to find out how high fructose corn syrup affects your gut health.

Colon Cancer

Shockingly, high fructose corn syrup can stimulate the growth of colon cancer.

The rates of colon cancer in young adults aged 20 to 49 years old are increasing. This trend may be due to the growing consumption of processed foods with high fructose corn syrup.

A colonoscopy can reduce your risk of colon cancer by removing pre-cancerous polyps. Everyone age 45 or older should receive preventative exams for colon cancer. But certain risk factors may cause you to receive screening earlier.

Risk factors for colon cancer include:

  • Older age
  • Inherited conditions
  • Lynch syndrome
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis
  • Family history
  • Alcohol use
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Diet
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

If you’re 45 or older and in need of a screening colonoscopy, you can schedule an appointment online or call my office at 972-867-0019.

Metabolic Syndrome

High fructose corn syrup can increase your risk of metabolic disorders by affecting the body’s biochemical processes.

Symptoms of metabolic syndrome include:

  • Abdominal obesity
  • High triglyceride levels (fat)
  • High blood sugar (glucose)
  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels

Your liver metabolizes high fructose corn syrup. But it becomes overwhelmed by the high amounts of fructose. So your liver starts to convert high fructose corn syrup into fat. Fat then accumulates in the liver, which makes its job to metabolize fructose even harder.

The accumulation of fat in the liver leads to other problems, including:

  • Decreased ATP (energy)
  • Increased uric acid

As a result of these impaired processes, your cells enter starvation mode and undergo oxidative stress. This stress can cause the following conditions:

  • Insulin resistance
  • Diabetes
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
  • Obesity

Insulin resistance reduces your leptin response, which is a hormone that lets you know when you’ve eaten enough food. The consumption of high fructose corn syrup leads to a cycle of looking for food while your body packs on fat.